Lawmakers Closer to Passing Pre-K Bill Many Don’t Like

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Florida lawmakers are just hours away from approving a bill that will get the ball rolling on the state’s first ever pre-kindergarten program for all four-year-olds, but the plan falls far short of what many parents and teachers wanted. Critics wonder if the Legislature is really listening.

Larry Keough represents 200 Catholic pre-schools around the state. He’s very disappointed the pre-k bill poised for passage at the Capitol only pays for a three-hour class day.

“When you talk about four-year-olds, you’re dealing with bathroom breaks, interruptions, recess and so forth, so the 3.0 hours probably translates to less than two hours or so of actual academic instruction.”

Lawmakers’ debates over how many hours the pre-school program should have is breaking down into a fight between rich and poor. Representatives from low-income districts argue a three-hour day won’t help a working or single-parent family.

But Republicans say this pre-k program isn’t supposed to be a babysitting service and they think a three-hour day is a good starting point. Republicans did agree to increase the number of teachers to two per class if the class has more than 10 children.

The bottom line, though, lawmakers have to start somewhere, and they’re not budging from a three-hour day.

The pre-k bill debated Wednesday does not require teachers to have a college degree unless they teach during a more intensive 300-hour summer pre-k program.

The House is expected to pass its version Thursday. The bill then goes to the Senate.